THE COLD WAR
By: Lauren Anderson
It’s last Tuesday. I wake up at my normal, sensible time for a person who works nights, and I remember I left a case of LaCroix in the car from the night before. Never wanting to be without LaCroix for too long, I throw on some sweat pants, boots and my coat, and run out into the parking lot.
I am exactly two steps outside, when my chest seizes up. My breath is stolen out of my mouth, and instantly I am wheezing. Oh snap. I’m having an asthma attack.
I’m surprised. Not only have I not had an asthma attack in a very long time, I haven’t even needed my inhaler for the past couple of days. Ever since I’ve been working out on a more consistent basis, my lung capacity has improved by leaps and bounds. In the last year, between eating differently and working out more regularly, I’ve essentially made my asthma my biiiiiissssshhhhhh.
But that’s in normal weather.
Having had asthma my entire life, I’m used to the feeling of diminished lung capacity. I don’t love it, but it takes a while before I start to freak out anymore. Especially if I know I have a fresh inhaler at the ready, just inside my cozy apartment. I continue on. I have to get my case of LaCroix out of the car before it freezes. You know, PRIORITIES.
I reach my car, and I have to double over. I am desperately trying to pull air into my lungs, but every time I do, it just seems to get worse. I cannot for the literal life of me, seem to be able to catch my breath. It’s too cold. There is no breath to be caught.
I abandon my berry LaCroix, and turn around. As I head back up the stairs, my chest begins heaving uncontrollably. Oh no. The stairs are making it worse! But I have to get to my inhaler quick. So I soldier on. I’m coughing and slowly plotting up the steps. I try to swear out of frustration, but I have no words, I’m too busy wheezing like a maniac. Spittle starts flying from my mouth, and I can feel it freeze. I’m doubled over, hoisting myself up the rickety wooden staircase back to my apartment.
When I finally make it to the top of the platform, I of course fumble with my keys and drop them. Like some bad horror movie, where the monster was inside me THE WHOLE TIME. Bending down to pick them up, makes me cough even worse.
Finally, I master the outside door and then it’s three quick steps and I’m inside. The warmth of the radiator fills the hallway, and before I know it, I’m back in my apartment– dashing to my purse, and fishing out my inhaler with what seems like my last breath.
I blow out whatever meager air is left, and take a puff. Hold it for the count of five. 1…2…3…4…5. I can feel it doing it’s work. But it’s not the instant fix I’m accustomed to. I repeat. Blow out, puff, count to 5. I lace my fingers together and put them on top of my head, an old trick I used to do in grade school.
I sit on the edge of my bed, and practice breathing deeply. With each new breath I cough some more. This case is severe. So I take another puff. Eventually the medicine does what it’s supposed to do. And I feel a sense of calm wash over me. But now my adrenaline is pumping. WTF just happened?!?!
I look at my phone. It’s negative 5 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Ermergawd. I didn’t even realize it was that cold! I just leapt out of bed without thinking, or covering my face, and went to save my LaCroix. Big mistake. Huge.
In less than two hours I was signed up to work out at the 11:30 Solcana class. How am I supposed to workout when I can’t even walk outside? But I get into my workout gear in spite of myself.
At 10:30, Crossfit shoes in hand, I make another venture out into the cold. The same thing happens as before. Instant asthma attack. But this time, I know better. I quickly move back inside to the warmth, but I skip the outside steps, and opt for the inside staircase. In the hallway, I take a puff of my inhaler again. This is not good.
When I get back to my apartment, I go online and cancel my reservation for class. And I sign up for Wednesday instead. Tomorrow will be better, I tell myself. I feel hopeful, but I know my body. And sometimes, despite your best efforts, you just have to call it. I stayed inside for the rest of the day.
Mother Nature 1. Lauren 0.
Wednesday I wake up. I look at the temperature on my phone. Negative two degrees, but it feels like negative seven. Jeezsus. But I try. I suit up and do a practice walk outside. Same as before. Instant attack. Not just slight loss of breath. Stepping outside feels like a gut punch.
I go back inside, and I cancel my reservation for class. Now I’m pissed. This officially sucks. But I have hope. I sign up for Thursday. Surely it will be better tomorrow? Right? RIGHT?!?!
Mother Nature 2. Lauren 0.
But I’ve still got to get to work. I can’t just stay in my apartment. So I call my doctor.
She advises me to avoid the outdoors for the next couple of days, and only venture out if I have a breathing mask on. The mask warms the air before it hits my lungs so I’m able to take in breath. It’s ridiculous, and it instantly makes me feel like I have a terrible disease. But hey, it helps. Sorta.
With the mask on, I am able to get the two city blocks from my parking lot to my building. So there’s that. But I was still having trouble breathing indoors too. What-the-f-was-happening?!
Well, my doctor explained that in this intense cold, every building cranks up the heat, which essentially dries out the air. Also not ideal for asthmatics. This dry air is different from Arizona desert hot dry air (which is great for asthmatics btw), because it’s usually blowing to a degree, and dusty to a degree. So I’m going from intense cold air, to intense hot dusty dry air. Basically the worst formula for breathing you can get.
I feebly ask, “What about working out?”
My doctor is real with me. “Normally I would say proceed with caution. I always want my patients to work out on a regular basis. But from what you told me, I think it’s best if you just take it easy for the next couple of days, until it warms up. With your diminished capacity, any extra movement or attempt at metabolic conditioning would work against you. I’m afraid it would hurt more than help.”
Whoa. I was not expecting to hear that. But when your own doctor advises you against something that, in literally ANY OTHER CIRCUMSTANCE, they would enthusiastically advise you to do… I knew I should listen.
I logged in, and cancelled my Thursday reservation for class. I officially hung in the towel.
Mother Nature 3. Lauren 0.
The rest of the week was spent taking it easy, and staying indoors. Running around doing the shows that weekend was an interesting dance in breathing deep, and hoping the audience didn’t notice me wheezing. Not the best circumstance for comedy, but I rallied. I decided if making people laugh is how I go, I’d consider that a successful life.
This week was a non-starter. A game cancellation due to inclement weather. Mother Nature benched me, and there was no convincing her otherwise. Despite my best efforts and my willingness, my body was like, “Sorry kid.” And in that instance, even my doctor agreed.
I guess my take-away from this last week is that sometimes things are out of my control. And my body does have some serious limitations. And that’s OKAY. Instead of being mad at my body for not having the golden lungs of Micheal Phelps, I decided to thank my body for working so hard all these years. For trying it’s best even when I did stupid stuff to it. For taking care of me, even when I did not take care of it.
In my week of forced furlough, I also noticed how bummed I was to have to cancel class. What a marked difference! The junior high kid in me would’ve been over-the-moon to have doctor’s orders not to workout. But the me that writes this today, is chomping at the bit to get back to it.
I guess it’s good to know my heart was in the right place, even if the rest of my body couldn’t be.
And if a case of LaCroix explodes from the cold in your vehicle, sure it’s a bummer, but it also makes your car smell like a berry-infused dream.